Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch
All right, so I loved The Dinner, which was the first book of Koch’s that I’ve read. I grabbed it when I was in SLO on vacation in California at a Barnes & Noble. It was up on the ‘new’ shelf or something and the cover just caught my eye, so I read the inner flap and it just sold it for me. I’m a huge fan of thrillers, anything confusing and complex is a plus in my book. I also like reading things that have been translated from it’s origin language, I like being introduced to new authors that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to read because of the language gap. Herman Koch is German, and while I do know a little bit of German, I certainly don’t know enough to read a full novel in the language. It’s interesting to read and notice difference in cultures. Anyways, let’s get back to the book at hand.
This book is complex with many different story lines, past and present, mixing together between chapters. There are a lot of characters whose first names you don’t even learn until more than 100 pages or more into the story, it’s crazy! (But crazy in an awesome way) The main character, known as Mr. M is an aging author who is falling out of popularity, married to a girl wayyyyyyyyyyyy younger than him, and constantly tries to keep his internal monologue from exiting his mouth. Our other lead man is Mr. M’s downstairs neighbor, he lives his life basically stalking Mr. M, or so it seems. He is clearly manipulative and possibly a little unhinged. Our other narrators are from the past, high schoolers that Mr. M based one of his bestsellers on.
As the story progresses, all of these different characters and narratives all wind together, coming to shocking climax at the end. A lot, actually, nearly all of the characters in the book (especially the main narrators) are rather hard to actually like. They are, what most people would consider, to be bad people. They have horrible opinions, they lack certain emotions, they are selfish, and yet you are still interested in their stories and what will happen to them at the end of the story. I liked the inside look at the relationships between people and how everyone viewed the others in their lives. At every turn you wonder “Did that guy do this?” or “Is that person actually dead now? Who did it?” And not everything has a definite ending, I’m still wondering if some of the people were killed or if they just died of natural causes.
I really enjoyed the book though, regardless of some hanging questions, but I like being able to make my own guesses on what actually happened in the past timeline. I also loved how no one’s face is actually ever described too much, for some reason, that really let me come up with a mental image of the people with what small details we do get through the story. Hair color, “open” faces, innocent eyes, aging author (age unknown for a long time). Characters are described slowly through the book, all the little details are missing from the beginning and slowly get leaked as narrators change, the past mixes with the present, and slowly the characters come to life in your mind’s eye. It’s done very well, I loved how it was done!
If you like complex mixing time lines, rude characters, suspense, and look into disturbing relationships (in the way of young girl and old man), then you’ll enjoy this roller coaster ride. I’d also suggest reading The Dinner, also by him, which is about a dinner between families who are avoiding talk about their children (best friends) who have committed an unspeakable act, the dinner starts out fine and slowly, as more details get revealed, the dinner starts to go down hill. Think of it as a book that starts as a small snowball, which gets bigger and bigger as it rolls down the mountain and finally smashes everything to pieces. It’s a wild ride as well.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, all opinions are my own.